Once again, I wake up and find myself in the year 2009, and as usual, that requires me to recalibrate my schema of the world around me. I was going to say something about Beavis and Butt-Head, and how they turned their early-1990s popularity into a spin-off album, but I I at first have to ask some questions about what the early 1990s mean today. The separation between today and the release of this album is equal to the separation between this album and the year of my birth. If someone had gone up to me, as the 14 year old boy who bought this album, and had offered me a novelty record from the late-1970s, (The Six Million Dollar Man and Friends Go Disco, for example), I would have looked at it as coming from a cthonic past that I could barely imagine. I don't know how the youths of today view Beavis and Butt-Head, for a generation with access to 4chan, they probably seem to be sadly tame, and not very interesting due to the lack of interactivity of television. But at least some of Mike Judge's work seems to still be in pop culture currency, although it was the semi-serious satire Office Space that seemed to do it.
So, if you will, travel back to 1994, a time when alternative still meant something, and when the replacement of dance pop with grunge was still important. And, in larger terms, a time when self-referentiality and recursiveness in the media was still a clever idea. A time that was cleverly exploited by Mike Judge with a TV show that could be fun for smart people who were in on the joke, and also hilarious for kids who didn't know what recursive meant but know that explosions and masturbation were funny. And within about a year of the introduction, the series was popular enough that an album can be released. The album took one of the basic ideas of the show, Beavis and Butt-Head interacting with music videos in a Mystery Science Theatre manner, and transmitted it to recorded music. Beavis and Butt-Head also had skits where they interacted with many of the musicians featured in a manner that was predictably crude but fairly funny, if you like that sort of thing. The musicians featured- Nirvana, Run-DMC, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and others, were also a fairly good mixture of bands for the time it was released. Also included is Aerosmith, which gives all of you people in 2009 an idea of what the climate was like in the early 1990s: compared to the dance and synth pop that was just on the wane, Aerosmith was hardcore enough that two pissy young teenage boys would like them. The songs included are a mixture of outtakes and covers that were mostly both good and interesting, including the famous duet between Cher and Butt-Head of "I've got you babe". The only problem with the album is that there wouldn't be too many people who would be interested in all the songs involved: not many people are going to pay 10 or 12 dollars (as the price was in those years) because they simply must have Sir Mix-a-Lot and Primus singing humorous songs. The main audience for the album were probably impressionable teenage boys going along with a fad.
The album should be credited for two things, though: giving us a snapshot of what would be considered "hard rock" (with some rap) in 1994, and also for being much better than it could have been. It would have been easy to put together an album that was truly much more dismal than this, slap a Beavis and Butt-Head cartoon on the front,and watch it sell. Instead, the comedy and music was good (again, if you like that type of thing.) So, 2009, you can laugh at what we considered social commentary in the dark days before Web 2.0, but some day, the laughter may be towards you.
- I Hate Myself and Want to Die-Nirvana
- Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun-Anthrax
- Come to Butt-Head-Beavis and Butt-Head
- 99 Ways to Die-Megadeth
- Deuces are Wild-Aerosmith
- I am Hell-White Zombie
- Poetry and Prose-Primus
- Monsta Mack-Sir Mix-a-Lot
- Search and Destroy-The Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Mental Masturbation-Jackyl
- I Got You, Babe-Cher with Beavis and Butt-Head
- Come to Butt-Head reprise (hidden track)